Anuj Puri: The Global Implications of India’s Fourth Industrial Revolution

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India’s finance minister Arun Jaitley will lead the Indian delegation of ministers, the chief economic advisor and more than 100 members of India’s corporate elite at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Davos. Mr Jaitley’s packed schedule signals that India is back on global business and investment radar. The government’s heavy emphasis on ease of doing business in India is more than evident. The opening up of several sectors to foreign direct investment, along with Modi’s foreign jaunts to boost India’s economic ties, clearly reflects the rising interest for India.

There is growing global awareness about India’s importance in the world order as the world waits for India to pick up the slack from a slowing China and become the next investment and business powerhouse. India is now the world’s fastest-growing economy, and the quest to find solutions to the unique challenges will also equip the world to address those challenges.

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At the recent Global Climate Summit in Paris, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received extensive praise for his game-changing announcement of an International Solar Alliance (ISA) involving more than 120 countries. ISA will provide solar energy access to the poor in these countries as well as India. It has an ambitious target of installing 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022, and non-fossil fuel electricity generating systems accounting for 40% of the cumulative installed capacity by 2030.

India, through ISA, will inspire and support many countries via knowledge sharing, R&D collaborations and low-cost financing. At the same forum, Modi pushed for ‘climate justice’ to support countries like India that are becoming major industrial nations. The success of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will hinge on the success of developing countries like India to be able to use the latest ‘clean’ technologies as their production and manufacturing capabilities increase.

Technology will become an enabler in India’s progress as 4G connectivity goes mainstream and broadband internet reaches the country’s hinterlands:

  • Governance will improve, bringing in more transparency – especially in notoriously opaque sectors like real estate Thanks to rapid smartphone penetration, more people will go from using cash to using e-wallets.
  • Farmers will be able to get the right prices for their crops and claim insurance directly into their small savings accounts.
  • The youth in smaller towns and villages will get access to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as also work opportunities across the world.

Migrations have happened since the time humans came into existence. Today, they come attached with socio-economic and geopolitical complexities. As Europe grapples to find solutions for millions of refugees turning up at its borders, India has similar challenges in the form of the massive exodus of people from rural areas to cities. Tens of millions more will continue to do so in the future. The country faces the complex problem of integrating these populations into its already-globalised but overflowing megalopolises.

In each of these endeavours, there is a massive opportunity for the rest of the world to partner with India – and this is a card that Team Modi can play and leverage very effectively at WEF.

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